Spectrum 015. Up and away

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Tono kōrero mai

Spectrum was a long-running weekly radio documentary series which captured the essence of New Zealand from 1972 to 2016. Alwyn Owen and Jack Perkins produced the series for many years, creating a valuable library of New Zealand oral history.

[Sound effects of a jet aircraft taking off] Narrator Barry Jenkin: Up and a wave [sic.] a history of Number 75 Squadron, Royal New Zealand Air Force.

That sound now heard in New Zealand skies, is that of a McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, of Number 75 Squadron, Royal New Zealand Air Force, stationed at Ohakea. The A-4 is a sophisticated and lethal aeroplane and it takes a particular kind of man to fly and maintain it. In this programme we'll meet some of these men and try to catch a glimpse of their working lives on base, where nowadays, the computer is as necessary a tool as the spanner. But it hasn't always been that way.

The 75 Squadron's history spans more than fifty years and in aviation, that's a lifetime. The squadron was first formed in 1916, at Goldington, in England, under the command of Major H.A. Petrie, Royal Flying Corps, and saw action in repelling the marauding German Zeppelin airships from Britain's coasts. It was equipped with Royal Aircracft Factory B.E.2 fighters, an aeroplane apparently remarkable only for its alarming lack of speed, armament and general fighting capabilities. The men who flew them, however, lacked nothing in this last respect. The principle requirements for air crew in 1916 were a measure of flying dexterity, a sense of direction, a reliable seat of the pants, a lot of luck and more courage. Air Commodore Keith Caldwell flew the B.E.2.

Air Commodore Keith Caldwelll: It was a very docile, inoffensive type of aeroplane and it had a very bad time in 1916 and the beginning of 1917 before it was replaced because it was very slow, had a very poor performance and was shot down in large numbers by the German fighters. And I think if one wanted to grow old, in the short term, the thing would be to continue flying B.E.2.c's.

Narrator: In the remaining two years of the war, 75 was re-equipped with B.E.12's and laters with Avro 504's.

Group Captain 'Tiny' White: I think its greatest defect in its early days was the rotary engine it was fitted with. If I might state a case, at C.F.S. where a fellow New Zealander and myself put C.F.S. together, and in his first three flights on a 504K, he made no more than a total of eight minutes.

Narrator: That was Group Captain 'Tiny' White. 75 Squadron later got what was perhaps the most famous of early British war planes, the Sopwith Camel.

Air Commodore Keith Caldwelll: The virtue of the Camel was its tightness of turn. This aeroplane could turn very, very quickly. It could turn inside an Albatros D5 or V-strut as we called them. It could turn inside a Fokker D7. It wasn't as fast as a Fokker D7, it could turn with a German triplane but probably, yes, a little bit better to the right, I would think. Now a lot of casualties were through people getting into right-hand turns and then developing into right-hand spins on Camels and therefore the Camel was regarded as a dangerous aeroplane, and it was for anybody who got into a right-hand spin and left a little bit of motor running which caused the aeroplane to rather wind-up like a top.

Narrator: The art of flying these dangerous machines was imparted by instructors in much the same way as a mother bird teaches her young.

Group Captain 'Tiny' White: One learnt by doing in the air what one was told. There was no form of dual instruction at that time, you merely had to do what you were told and if your instructor was satisfied with it he told you so, and if not, you told him how you didn't manage to do the operation he asked you to do.

[Re-enactment of an early flying instructor and pupil].

Narrator: Once the fledgling had earned his wings he was considered prepared for war in the air. A chivalrous conflict, but nevertheless war.

Group Captain 'Tiny' White: It was a war that was fought on sort of a sportsman-like basis. Although you might have had a good scrap of some sort, if one of your fellows was shot down in enemy territory, well the next day the Germans would be over dropping a message to your home aerodrome to say that he was alright, if he wasn't killed, whoever was lost, and that was exactly the same as the Germans did to us, so it really was in a sense a gentleman's war. It wasn't until later on in the war that you had to fight tooth and nail to fight everything down.

Lieutenant Commander Gil Calder talks about the reformed squadron of the 1930s.

Air Vice Marshall C.E. Kay and Group Captain Aubrey Breckon remember the squadron's role in World War II.

Joe Laughton recalls the heroic flights of Sergeant Jimmy Ward and his death over Germany.

Ron Andrew, a Mosquito pilot, describes flying the aircraft.

Wing Commander Crooks describes flying in Vampires and the difference between them and Mustangs.

The squadron's aerobatic team was formed after World War II and had success in aerial displays.

Flight Lieutenant Bill Larking talks about his work maintaining the squadron's aircraft.

Flight Lieutenant Sean Robinson and Corporal Cullens talk about servicing modern aircraft.

Dave Bennan talks about flying Skyhawks.

Air Commodore G.P. Moss and Wing Commander Kinvig talk about the modern No. 75 Squadron.

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Year 1972

Reference number 28018

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Genre Documentary radio programs
Nonfiction radio programs
Radio programs
Sound recordings

Credits Jenkin, Barry, Narrator
White, Trevor Watts, 1893-1979, Interviewee
Caldwell, K. L., 1895-1980, Interviewee
Calder, Gil, Interviewee
Kay, Cyril Eyton, - 1993, Interviewee
Breckon, Aubrey Arthur Ninnis, 1913-1989, Interviewee
Talbot, Verne, Producer
Radio New Zealand. National Programme (estab. 1964, closed 1986), Broadcaster

Duration 00:30:29

Date 1972